6 Different Bicycle Rack Options for Hauling Around Your Bike(s)

When you want to start riding bicycles, there are many items you need to purchase. A bicycle rack is most likely one of them. With so many options available, it is hard to know which one to pick. Read this article to find out the details on different bicycle racks.

A man fixing his bike onto the rack on top of his car.

Do you remember being a kid and riding your bike everywhere? You felt like you were free while you felt the wind blowing through your hair. Riding a bike today brings make such good memories from my childhood. It is always a great form of exercise.

Now that I am no longer a kid, riding my bike around the neighborhood does not have the same appeal. Now, I want to ride my bike on trails, but getting my bike there is not always easy. I needed to find myself a good bike rack to put on my car. Check out this article to get the details about all the different types of bicycle racks.

1. Hitch Mount Bike Racks (3 designs)

A look at the back of the car with an installed hitch mount bike rack.

Check out my favorite hitch bike rack by Thule here.

You may be surprised that the hitch on your car or truck can be used for something other than a trailer. You can lock a bike rack into the hitch tube on your car. A hitch mount bike rack may also be called a platform or tray rack. Once you lock the bike rack into place, you can strap the frame of the bike into a tube top. You can also put them with their wheels down in a tray rack. A trailer hitch can handle a heavy amount of weight, so there is no concern for your hitch not being able to support your bikes.

You must make sure that the bike rack fits in the trailer hitch. This type of rack keeps the bikes a good distance away from the car so there is little chance of scratches in the bike paint. This type of bike rack can fold down or swing to the side so that you can still access your trunk or the bed of your truck while the bikes are in place. This type of rack can hold two to six bikes. Bikes are easy to load and unload in this type of rack.

3 hitch rack designs:

a. Vertical

INNO INH540 Vertical Hang 4-Bike Hitch Mount Bike Rack (2" & 1.25" Hitches)
Click image for more info

A vertical mount bike rack mounts underneath the vehicle and under the fork. You strap your bike at the bottom of the wheel to the lower part of the bike rack. This type of bike rack is best for mountain bikes. You should not use this rack for kids’ bikes. This bike rack is great for carrying dual suspension bikes.

Only one arm of the bike goes into the frame, which makes it easy to carry bikes with complicated suspensions. These racks allow you to load your bikes easily and quickly, so you are on the road in no time. Some models of this bike rack have a pedal so that you can tilt down the bike rack to give you access to the trunk. Other models fold down completely so that you are able to access the back of your vehicle or the trunk.

The vertical type suspends your bikes under the frame.  They are more compact, less expensive (than trays) and many models can carry up to 4 bikes. These are fairly popular.

b. Tray

Thule T2 Pro XT 2 Bike Add-on (2" Only) - Black
Click image for pricing. This is the Thule tray rack which is what I have.

The tray rack lies flat and bikes stand upright on them.  Most carry two bikes but some can be extended to carry 4 bikes.

The big advantage of the tray rack is that it can carry heavier loads, specifically heavy electric bikes.

The disadvantages are they are expensive and it hinders access to your trunk or hatch.

c. Regular hitch rack

Thule Helium Pro 2 Hitch Bike Rack
Click image for more information

The regular hitch rack shown above is the most popular hitch rack because it’s compact, strong and many models can carry up to 4 bikes.  Bikes are easy to put on the rack, they can carry any kind of bike (kids, road, mountain) except heavy electric bikes aren’t good due to the weight.

I also find that these racks secure bikes nicely – the very little risk of bikes flying off because they’re strapped down securely and because it’s a hitch rack, the entire contraption is secure.

2. Tie-Down Bike Rack

Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Trunk Mount Rack, Model 102DN-R
Click image for pricing

This was my first bike rack.  You don’t need a hitch. The contraption straps down on the rear of your car.

These aren’t the sturdiest racks available so don’t carry a heavy electric bike.  However, for light bikes, they work well.

The cost is low because you don’t have to invest in a hitch and the rack itself is fairly inexpensive (around $100).

Once on though, you can’t access the rear hatch or trunk of your vehicle without removing the rack.

3. Spare Tire Mount Bike Rack

Hollywood Racks SR1 Spare Tire Rack 2-Bike Spare Tire Mount Rack
Click image for more info

If you have a Jeep or SUV, this is the best bike rack for you. You probably care about your bike as much as you do your vehicle. The spare tire mount can keep your bikes safe and free of scratches and dings.

You must have a spare tire attached to the rear door of your Jeep or SUV. The bike rack attaches behind the tire, so you do not have to give up your spare tire to be able to carry around bikes. This type of bike rack carries two bikes. You are able to lock the bike frame into place and then tie it down with straps.

These bike racks are heavy duty because they are made of heavy-duty material and has rubber straps to stand up to heavy use. The cradle is an arm that extends out from the frame. This cradle holds the bikes in place, so there is no worry about them falling off your vehicle while you are driving. In some models, the cradle can fold down to stay out of the way when you are not carrying bikes.

Pros:

  • Provides security and stability for bikes
  • Lightweight before the bikes are on the rack

Cons:

  • This bike rack is only for SUVs or a Jeep

4. Trunk-Mount Bike Rack (Hitchless)

A look at the back of a car with a trunk-mount bike rack.

Another type of bike rack is one that mounts on a trunk, so no hitch is needed. This is a folding rack and can fit over a wide variety of trunk sizes and styles. They can fit on the flat trunk of a car or a vertical SUV door. This type of bike rack has straps that wrap around the edge of the trunk door and lock it into place.

A trunk mount bike rack has arms that are able to be folded down when you are not using it. It offers you the utmost in stability by keeping your bikes in place. The frame has clamps that are padded and adjustable so that you are able to keep your bikes separated while on the bike rack. This type of bike rack is often difficult to put in place and also difficult to be taken off the trunk. You cannot have access to your trunk if you have the bike rack in place. You may be able to find a trunk bike rack that tilts down so that you can still access your trunk. It also folds flat for easy storage.

Pros

  • No need for a hitch or rear tire
  • Inexpensive

Cons

  • Difficult to put on and take off the car
  • May not be able to access trunk while in place

5. Truck Bed Mount Bike Rack

A look at a silver truck with an installed truck bed mount bike rack.

A truck bed mount bike rack only works in a flatbed truck. One of the benefits of having a flatbed truck is that you can throw a lot of items in the back of it. You may want to do that with your bikes, but that is not always the best idea.

If you just throw them in the back of the truck, your bikes will not be secure and they may roll all over the place. They also may get scratched or damaged. They may also get stolen if they are just sitting in the back of the truck.

There are a few different types of truck bed racks available to you. One looks like a bike rack that you see attached to a sidewalk. The version that fits in your truck looks like a smaller version of that bike rack. It is a frame that has grooves that you can slide your front bike tires into each groove. Another option also allows your bike to sit upright but you have to remove the front bike tire for it to fit in the rack.

Pros

  • Allows you to keep your bike upright

Cons

  • Only works on a pickup truck bed
  • May have to remove front bike tire

6. Roof Mount Bike Rack

A silver sedan with an installed roof mount bike rack.

A roof-mounted bike rack sits on the roof of your car. This bike rack can hold anywhere from one to six bikes. The number of bikes you carry is dependent on the roof of your vehicle, the weight of your bikes, and the width of the roof of your car. You must have a roof rack that came with the factory, or you have to have an aftermarket rack system installed.

This type of bike rack allows you to have access to your trunk, rear door, or hatch while the bike and bike rack is on your vehicle. You do have to lift the bikes up on the roof of your car, so you have to make sure you have the strength to do so. You will also have to leave your bikes on top of your vehicle when the bikes are not in use. You also have to remember that the bikes are on top of the car, so you have to be aware of the overhead clearance that you have with the bike on the roof.

Pros

  • Can be a good option for a small car
  • Allows you to have access to your trunk

Cons

  • Difficult to load a bike
  • Must have a roof rack

FAQ section

What is A Bicycle Rack?

A bicycle rack is an accessory that you attach to your vehicle so that you can move one or more bikes from one place to another. There are many different styles of bike racks available from which you can choose depending on your vehicle, the weight of the bikes, and how you want to transport the bicycles. Bicycle racks are also referred to as bicycle carriers.

Brief History of Bicycle Racks

The history of bicycle racks can be traced back to 1974 when Graber Manufacturing was created and they created the first roof rack system to enable people to carry bikes on their cars. Then the company manufactured a trunk bike rack that straps onto the trunk and can be adjusted. In 1980, a bike rack was manufactured with a locking system that was integrated into the bike rack. You still had to buy your own padlock for the rack.

Then in 1989, the company was purchased and renamed to break out of the bike rack slump that seemed to have happened. They focused on innovating new products and marketed them well. In 1992, the company released a trunk rack that can fold flat. This bicycle rack was was compact and easy to use. In 1996, there was a redesign of bike racks that were stylish and much better looking.

These new systems mount quickly to any type of vehicle from compact cars to minivans. In 2014, more changes were made to bike racks to keep them innovative and create new models. Even today, bike racks are constantly evolving so that they keep up with the changing demand for bike racks.

Where to Buy Bicycle Racks

You can buy a bicycle rack just about anywhere. There are specialty bicycle shops that sell bicycles and all types of accessories, including bicycle racks. There are many different online stores that sell bicycle racks, some of them at discounted prices. You can also find bicycle racks on sale at sporting goods stores.

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